Portrait of Chief Joseph
Media playback is unsupported on your device

Epic photographic odyssey that documented Native Americans

An early 1900s a photographer called Edward Curtis had a big idea: to capture on film the last remaining American-Indian tribes before they disappeared completely.

Backed by President Theodore Roosevelt and funded by financier JP Morgan, the charismatic Curtis spent the next three decades circumnavigating the United States documenting the customs of more than 80 tribes.

Ultimately Curtis took more than 40,000 photographs, preserved 10,000 audio recordings and is credited with making the world's first documentary film.

In his book Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis, author Timothy Egan follows the pioneering photographer's journey.

He reveals how Curtis' obsession cost him his marriage and left him penniless.

Produced by Tracy Sutherland and David Botti

Additional photo/video: Getty Images, British Pathe, Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, Edward S Curtis Collection, and courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  • 29 Nov 2012